A family who fled a Nazi-era homeschooling ban in Germany to settle in the United States is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow before an immigration judge who is being asked to grant them asylum from the persecution they would face if they returned.
WND reported two years ago on the day police knocked on the door of the home of Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and forcibly escorted their children to public school. Then WND reported again just a few months ago when the family fled Germany, with the help of the U.S.-based Home School Legal Defense Association, and settled in the United States.
Now, as the time for a decision in their request to remain in the U.S. approaches,
the Associated Press has profiled the family, living in Morristown, Tenn.
The parents and five children, whose flight was funded partly by Uwe Romeike’s decision to sell his grand pianos, live in a duplex northeast of Knoxville. They are asking for asylum because of the persecution they would face for evangelical Christian beliefs that include their personal responsibility to teach their own children.
The parents want to provide their children’s education because of the propaganda included in modern German textbooks that violates the family’s religious beliefs. This includes explicit lessons on sex, the promotion of the occult and witchcraft and an effort to teach children to disrespect authority figures, the family said.
HSLDA officials estimate there are some 400 homeschool families in Germany. Virtually all of them are either forced into hiding or facing court actions.
WND has documented repeatedly the crackdown within Germany on homeschooling families because of the government’s fear that children taught beliefs other than those included in the state-endorsed textbooks would give rise to “parallel societies.”
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, previously wrote on the issue in a blog, explaining the German government “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion.”
As WND reported, the German government believes schooling is criticial to socialization, as evident in its response to parents that objected to police officers picking up their child at home and delivering him to a public school.
“The minister of education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling,” said a government letter. “… You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers. … In order to avoid this in future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement.”
Uwe Romeike told HSDLA on the family’s arrival in the U.S. that the freedom to homeschool makes the move worthwhile.
“We hope that our example may pave the way for other families. It is wrong for Germany to persecute homeschoolers. But if they do not want the best and brightest and those who seek freedom, then perhaps the United States will benefit,” he said.
His wife said, “We don’t have to worry about looking over our shoulder anymore, wondering when the youth welfare officials will come or how much money we have to pay in fines.”
Michael P. Farris, cofounder of HSLDA, told WND in an interview last year Germany is the only Western democracy “taking this incredibly hard-line approach.”
“Germany’s behavior in this area is the edge of the coming night,” Farris said. “You don’t expect to apply for political asylum from a Western country.”
Political asylum, HSLDA explained, is available to people already in the U.S. who fear persecution in their home country because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. HSLDA contends homeschoolers in Germany certainly fit that description.
“German homeschoolers, of which there are few because of the persecution, are fined thousands of dollars, sent to prison or have the custody of their children taken away,” says Michael P. Donnelly, HSLDA’s contact attorney for Germany, on the organization’s website.
“Many of these families have fled Germany when threatened with the custody of their children,” he says. “Some have told me that they are willing to go to jail for their beliefs if they have to, but they will not allow the state to take their children.”
Officials estimated during last year alone, nearly a dozen families fled Germany in the face of persecution.
WND has reported on German homeschoolers who have been fined the equivalent of thousands of dollars, have been threatened with jail and have even watched their children be confined to a psychiatric hospital, diagnosed with “school phobia.”
Donnelly told the AP, “Germany sticks out in the midst of Western Europe for having this harsh repression against parents. They have this notion that homeschool creates this parallel society and they deem that as dangerous.”
To the wire agency, Lutz Gordens, German consul general for the southeast U.S., defended his nation’s public education requirements.
“For reasons deeply rooted in history and our belief that only schools properly can ensure the desired level of excellent education, we (Germany) go a little bit beyond that path which other countries have chosen,” Gorgens said.
The HSLDA is a nonprofit advocacy group defending and advancing the constitutional rights of parents to direct the education of their children. With more than 80,000 families who are members, it is the largest homeschool association in the world.